War on Christmas-tide
Sullivan is taking a break, and has two center-right bloggers covering for him. I really don’t get why so many people respect Douthat, but that being said, the first posts are good. Especially endearing to see all these intellectual right-wing dismissals of the War-on-Christmas stuff. It’s very reminiscent of all the intellectual right-wingers who doubted Bush in 2004 and felt he had veered too far from true conservatism. They’re riding the bull, but I don’t think they are in control. Gay Marriage won 2004, not Iraq policy, and in this case there is probably good reason the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world continue harping on the War on Christmas even as their elite columnists and whatnot know it’s silly demagoguery.
Let me break the War on Christmas down real easy. About 60-80% of the country is Christian, depending on how strict your definition of Christian is. If Christmas is a Christian holiday, then you can only sell Christmas trees to 70% of the people. If Christmas is a secular holiday though, then you can sell Christmas trees to everyone. Now if you sell Christmas trees (with a 70% chance of being Christian yourself), how are you going to describe Christmas?
It’s generally ignored how much cultural power our private corporations have in this country, because we generally trust the free-market to not do evil manipulative cultural things. When it is in their interest to generate a large cultural shift however, there should be no doubt that they are a force that can crush atheist university professors or fundamentalist Christian televangelists in one fell swoop.
I do find it rather interesting that self-styled populists like O’Reilly don’t take more opportunity to bash commercial institutions for their role in this as well. Sounds like a perfect double-shot to me.
Lastly, one nice description here:
The New Yorker is just a microcosm, but the larger reality is that while there isn't a war against Christmas, there is a significant chunk of this country - the most educated chunk, the chunk that runs the high-minded magazines and writes for the big newspapers and makes most of the movies (the sudden interest in the Christian market notwithstanding) and teaches at the major universities and generally controls the commanding heights of the culture - that doesn't much care for Christianity, at least if it's practiced seriously and its basic dogmas are left intact. This reality is what drives the siege mentality among many Christians, and the popularity of O'Reilly-style conspiracy theorizing - the awareness that our majority-Christian country is saddled, for some reason, with an elite that approaches religious belief with a mix of bemusement, ignorance, and fear.
Of course the other side, the secular elite, feels under siege as well - they're in the minority, they don't control the the government, they thought we were past all that Christianity stuff, and they can't quite understand why a twenty-first century educated class should have to put up with a bunch of benighted yahoos who buy tickets to The Passion of the Christ and elect Presidents like George W. Bush. (The Europeans don't have to deal with this kind of nonsense, after all . . .) So everybody feels disempowered, and everybody has a point - which is why the Christmas wars are fake, but the culture war is real.
Except of course, when those blue-state-elites are actually in the majority (2000 presidential, 2004 senatorial), but because they live in the wrong cluster of places, they still lose. That sort of thing adds to siege mentality, because it’s much harder to get more than 52% of the populace than it is to get more than 50%.